Mitt, Show Us Your (Tax) Papers, Please

Speaking at the NCLR national conference Vice President Joe Biden mused that Mitt Romney wants Hispanics to show their (citizenship) papers even though he refuses to disclose his own (tax) "papers." While this may seem like an inconsequential throwaway election speech line, it does highlight a disturbing dichotomy within the psyche of the Republican Party.

This election cycle the GOP has consistently demonized working class immigrants while excusing those in their own party who exploit our tax system to keep from paying their fair share of taxes. Here is a simple truth: many legal and undocumented immigrants pay taxes and would pay more if there was a mechanism to give them the legal means to do so. Unfortunately politicians like Romney will not give them this opportunity. Defending Romney's tax issues Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham opined: "It's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally." When did it become "American" to avoid paying taxes? For the sake of argument let's contrast the tax practices of immigrants, who the GOP consider un-American due to their lack of citizenship and Romney their presidential candidate.

According to the New York Times in Romney's 2010 tax return, (the only return he has as of yet released) he lists a blind trust held by his wife valued at $3million in a Swiss bank account. Romney has also used a "complex offshore tax shelter, known as a blocker corporation, to shield the investments in his I.R.A. from paying businesses taxes. The use of this technique by wealthy taxpayers and institutions, has long been blasted by Congressional tax experts as an abusive practice which costs the treasury $1 billion a decade."

By contrast, according to The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) immigrants paid 11.2 billion dollars in state and local taxes. The report estimated the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households that are headed by unauthorized immigrants. These households may include members who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. This revenue included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.

It is commendable that Mitt Romney like many Americans believes a penny saved is a penny earned. However, did he stop to think how his tax shelter "savings" affects the American tax base? This is not a screed against the wealthy. Our country has a proud tradition of providing opportunities for growth and development to titans of industry such as JD Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. The difference is they reinvested their wealth into our country, in the form of endowments, libraries and hospitals. When did it become acceptable for our political elite to store vast fortunes in off shore bank accounts like villains in a James Bond movie? It may be legal, but is this the type of behavior we should endorse from someone running for President?

This latest imbroglio is just another in a string of scandals which underscores a simple fact, Romney is not interested in investing in the working class of our country. While there is improvement in our job market, many are still struggling. The President has indicated he would like to continue to invest in programs which help our working Americans. If Romney's tax shelter is an indication of his willingness to invest in the United States of America, this may be a cause for concern for those of us who do not make six figures. America is great because it is diverse. Our diversity includes religion, ethnicity, age, and income. We need a president that is in touch with and willing to act in the support of the economic needs of our diverse populations.

Bottom line, while the GOP and Romney have continually attacked hard working immigrants who contribute every day to the United States, they should take a long look at their Presidential candidate when it comes to paying his fair share of taxes. Better yet, they would do good to consider Ronald Reagan's firm belief that what makes America great is our willingness to take the tired and hungry from all over the world and gives them a chance to contribute here. As Romney continues to call for immigrants to show their papers he might consider sharing his own.